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Simpson: why I will take on Ken Jackson

NEW LABOUR'S favourite trade union leader, Sir Ken Jackson, has been stunned by a left wing challenge to his leadership. His opponent, Derek Simpson, has around 115 branch nominations to stand in the leadership elections for the AEEU section of Amicus

Issue No. 1798

HAVE Jackson's supporters been surprised at the backing for you?

AT FIRST I was just an irritation to them. Now I am a serious challenger and they cannot guarantee the outcome. As I have gone round speaking to people, they recognise I'm a viable candidate and can enthuse activists. Jackson's supporters are deeply disturbed at the strength of feeling against them.

About halfway through the campaign the alarm bells started ringing for them, which is why they deliberately sent out officers to campaign so strenuously. Yet this hasn't stemmed the flow of nominations for me. People have suddenly woken up to the fact that there is a real prospect Jackson may not win the election. It says as much about his campaign's lack of policy as about anything I have done or said.

WHAT SORT of support have you had inside the union?

THERE ARE 115 branches that have indicated they have nominated me. I only needed 15 to get on the ballot form. So that is 100 more than I expected to get! This was against the full opposition of the full time officers who were expected to deliver for the boss.

Sometimes we are fooled by the strength of the union machine. I've contacted branches, and rank and file activists have been raising support in their branches.

That's how I've got the rather phenomenal amount of nominations. I live and work in South Yorkshire. There are only eight branches in the whole of the region. I won support in all eight. I've got a nomination in Wigan, which is Jackson's own town, and every branch round it.

I've won support in the north east, north west and Scotland. It's been pretty good in Wales and the south west. There's been support in the Midlands too, with the Rover cars branch nominating me. I've even got some support in the London region, despite the dirty tricks to try to get nominations for Jackson.

WHAT DOES your campaign reveal about the mood among rank and file union members?

THERE IS a growing realisation that people are rejecting the policies of partnership, privatisation and the Private Finance Initiative. There is also the question of our union's failure to support the restoration of the link between pensions and earnings.

These are the issues that score points at meetings I speak at. This partnership with the employers basically has them screwing us every day of the week. Jackson claims he speaks for the members. Yet he never asks the members.

Privatisation and PFI are causing bitter resentment. Yet Jackson supports these policies. This is what we are using as a campaign slogan. We have a problem as a union. With partnership we have got to keep one eye on the bosses. With privatisation and PFI we have to keep one eye on Downing Street.

We want to keep both eyes on what the members want. Our campaign must be well founded. The other side, with the full resources of the union, are failing to grind our small effort into the floor.

Politically I'm not arguing quite the same line as the left trade union leaders like the RMT's Bob Crow and Aslef's Mick Rix.

I would not argue to withdraw support from the Labour Party. I feel the real battle is to regain the initiative inside the Labour Party and liberate our union from its current leadership. But there is a resurgence of progressive viewpoints inside the trade union movement.

And a lot of attention is being concentrated on the outcome of this election because Amicus is a very big union. It could lead to pressures for a left victory inside the TGWU and GMB in their forthcoming elections. That would have serious implications for New Labour.

WHAT ARE you asking your supporters to do?

THE NOMINATIONS for the election have now closed, but there is no timetable for the election. Some believe Jackson may call it after the AEEU section's conference from 9 to 14 June.

But if he thinks things are going badly he could delay the whole thing till later this year. We aren't finished with him yet! We will use the time to make more people aware about the challenge to him.

We are keeping up the campaign with meetings and building up our contact database.

PHONE DEREK'S campaign on 0114 236 1419 or 07803 922 096. Send donations for the campaign to Graham Goddard, 199 Badger Road, Woodhouse, Sheffield S13 7TS. Make cheques payable to Unity Campaign Fund.

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Article information

Sat 4 May 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1798
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